Just 46 miles from Phoenix are the Four Peaks, in the Mazatzal Mountains, a familiar sight that most people in Arizona would recognize. But what many may not know is that hidden in that iconic mountain range is an amethyst mine with a long, unique, and interesting history.
Earliest glimpses into the history of the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine are now considered artifacts – Native American arrow heads that were carved out of amethyst have been found in the area near the mine. It is also believed that Spanish settlers discovered the mine in the 18th century. It is unclear how much amethyst was actually mined by these settlers however there are rumors that some of the Arizona amethyst made its way into the Spanish crown.
While the early history of the mine is murky, it becomes clearer in the early 1900’s when a prospector, Jim McDaniel, discovered the mine as he followed a quartz ‘float’ in search of gold. Since gold was what he and most other prospectors at the time were in search of, they merely noted the location of the amethyst mine and moved on. It wasn’t until 1942 that the mine first ‘produced’ and was patented by prominent German stone cutters of the time.
Over the next 50 years it was mined by various mine-owners and renters of the property but never consistently. In the 1980’s and 1990’s it was mined intermittently but mostly illegally by trespassers who knew what to look for, or hikers who stumbled on the mine.
In 1997, Kurt Cavano of New Jersey, was visiting the annual Tucson Rock and Gem Show and found himself in talks to purchase the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine. Since taking over the mine, Cavano has standardized the mining processes and production, allowing for more beautiful Arizona amethyst jewelry to find its way on fingers and necks across the country.
What makes the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine interesting is that it is located on privately owned land in the National Forest making mining and getting in and out of the mining area difficult.
The small crew of miners hike in and out of the mountain to access the private land, and work and live on the mountain for several weeks at a time before hiking out.
“There is no easy way in or out,” said Cavano. “A few times a year supplies are flown in by helicopter and the raw amethyst is flown out.”
The miners have been following the same vein of crystals through the mountain for twenty years and production of the rough depends on the vein itself. All of the amethyst is mined by hand, as dynamite could not only damage the amethyst crystals, but compromise the mine itself.
“We want to be respectful of how we take the amethyst out of the mine,” said Cavano. “We use simple tools and we think of ourselves more as stewards of this amazing piece of Arizona history than miners.”
Plus, being located in the National Forest and wilderness means there is an obligation to be more responsible in the environment. The mountain’s inherent rugged territory and remote access to the mine makes the Four Peaks Amethyst all the more special.
Cavano has strived to decrease the mine’s environmental footprint by utilizing solar to power the miners’ living space and the mine itself and use as little gasoline as possible throughout the process.
About one ton of raw amethyst is mined a year from the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine. After cutting and sorting, it is reduced down to only a few handfuls of gemstone quality stones. Amethyst is a type of quartz. The purple color is a result of the iron that was present when forming and the amount of iron present along with other trace minerals affects the shade of purple. Arizona amethyst is characterized by the red hue it has known as ‘Siberian red’ since it is similar to the amethyst mined in Russia. Amethyst is also a hard and durable gemstone, making it ideal for cutting.
The Four Peaks Mining Company store located in Scottsdale at the OdySea in the Desert carries a large collection of sterling silver Arizona amethyst jewelry and a large variety of gold, rose gold and white gold set amethyst jewelry. Sparkling rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets are available for both women and men.
There is also a replica of the actual mine at the Four Peaks Mining Company showing visitors what it is like to go in the Four Peaks Mine. Visiting Four Peaks Mining Company also offers visitors an opportunity to learn about mining and the other gemstones found in Arizona. A unique UV lighted mineral room with walls that are embedded with naturally fluorescing minerals can be seen. Plus a large variety of crystals and unique stones from around the world can be found in jewelry. Four Peaks Mining Company is a one of a kind venue.
For more information visit Four Peaks Mining Company, located in OdySea in the Desert at 9500 E Via De Ventura in Scottsdale. Or go to the website fourpeaksminingco.com/